This is a Good Book Thursday, September 17, 2020

This week I read my first Jojo Moyes novel and reread a Carl Hiaasen (because that guy never disappoints) and started The Literature Book: Big Ideas Explained. Yeah, I know I have degrees in literature, it’s still good to get an overview again. There’s a whole series, so I bought the ones on Movies, Religion, and Science (things I do not have degrees in), plus the Heads Up books on Sociology and Psychology (other things I do not have degrees in).

And yes, I know I forgot Working Wednesday. Well, I just realized I forgot it. The days start to run together and I lose track. Can I interest you in Working Friday? ARGH.

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84 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, September 17, 2020

  1. Working Friday? Um, how about wine recommendation Friday? Ooh wait, cocktail / mocktail recommendation Friday?

    I haven’t read anything I’d recommend, so I’m hungry for ideas. I really (and unusually) want to read something that makes me say damn, that was good, rather than the pure entertainment I’ve been mostly reading. But I don’t want e.g. Ian McEwan because I still want to feel, I’m, not bleak, when I’ve finished.

    1. I just remembered!
      I skimmed the good bits (again) of Peter Fitzwilliam’s biography of Nancy Wake.

      If you don’t know her story, I really recommend reading this. She was a NZ/Australian who fought as part of the Resistance in WW2, while maintaining cover living a high society life in Marseilles with her French husband. At the end of the war, she was the Gestapo’s most wanted.

      One day (when very upset for Reasons) she said ‘I killed a lot of [nazis], and I am only sorry I didn’t kill more.” A french colleague said of her “she is the most feminine woman I know, until the fighting starts. Then she is like five men”.

      She was known as the White Mouse and she was freaking awesome.

        1. Yeah, that does not sound like my kind of book. The Amazon synopsis sounds like it contains a lot of “writing.”

      1. I like his writing, but not necessarily his books. Take the novella On Chesnil Beach.
        Spoilers.
        It takes that annoying ‘fail to communicate’ device to make the plot work. And it’s scream inducing. But it has been set up so well, the characters so finely drawn, that you can’t say ‘why can’t they just talk to each other’ because you can see the answer to that, to how they got to where they did. There’s a scene where the couple are arguing, and it is described just painfully well. She says things she actually doesn’t mean or think, better she’s angry about something else altogether, and these words are the ones that will hurt best, and it’s awful and true. For example:

        “She imagined she heard him grunt, as though punched in the chest. If only the silence that followed had been a few seconds longer, her guilt might have had time to rise up against her, and she might have added something less unkind.

        But Edward came out swinging.” (So of course she swung back).

        It’s masterful, and yeah, bleak. Which is why I don’t want to read him!!

  2. Jenny, talk about revisiting good literature, today I think you should be reading many versions of that great theme:

    H a p p y B i r t h d a y !!!!

    1. A birthday beyond all imagination. May love and celebration surround you . As a person who has been greatly enriched by your novels and your sense of community, I am very grateful you were born.

  3. I am having trouble finding anything new to read, but Summer at Firefly Lake, a contemporary romance by Jen Gilroy, was good enough that I’ve got her other two books about Firefly Lake waiting in reserve. Mostly I’m rereading Jenny Crusie, currently enjoying Bet Me, which might be my favorite. Between work (I had a piece turned back for revision) and a health scare (I think it’s turning out to be full of sound and fury, signifying nothing), my concentration is shot. So I’m all about comfort reading and rereading, even more than usual.

  4. This is the first week of online preschool. I have been reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Little Bear as well us putting together packets of art supplies. When I have time to read for myself I have been rereading Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance and short stories by Joan Aiken. Maybe next week I will read something more adventurous.

  5. I have finished all of Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Naturals series, enjoying them very much, but finding them too tense to read at bedtime, my main reading time. No matter how determined my eyes were to close, my brain kept going “But what happens next?happens next?happens next?” They are worth the struggle, though.
    I’m still plowing through several fantasy books that are all good, but so much alike in the feel (not the details) of setting and plot that I get bored. Margaret Owen’s Merciful Crow and Faithless Hawk were definitely worth the effort to remember which fantasy world I was in.
    After a mention here I’m starting Alyssa Cole’s The A.I. Who Love Me, which promises to be sufficiently different from what I’ve been reading.

  6. Because of tiredness it is taking me longer to read books than normal.

    I tried to read Marian Keyes years ago but her characters did not engaged me; however, I enjoyed her current book Grown Ups. Three brothers and their wives and children meet up for a family meal. One of the sisters-in-law has had a knock to the head, so her normal discretion goes out the door and she reveals the secrets the different family members have been keeping. The book that I would highly recommend is The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman. It was shortlisted for the Comedy Women in Print Prize and it would have been my winner.

    The One Plus One By JoJo Moyes is one of my favourite books. It reminds me of the film Little Miss Sunshine. The book is both funny and heartbreaking and it has a dog that does not die. Highly recommend.

    I know Allanah was probably joking above, but I would prefer a discussion about food and drink than Working Friday. I’m too tired to crochet or knit anything. I bought a mandolin and I am going to try to make apple crisps, inspired by an Argh member who posted a picture of her apple crisps during the summer.

    1. That was me! Warning re the apple crisps, the variety matters. I had by far the best outcome with (very ripe but I don’t know if that is part of it) cox’s orange.

  7. I am back to comfort rereading. I stop and start a lot and then I gave up and went back to the beginning of Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series.

    The new Forthright book is coming out on Tuesday and I am looking forward to that. Her books are always like a hug 🙂

  8. Happy birthday Jenny!

    (tl,dr version of the below: I have learned a lot from you!)

    I am listening to a book that I will not name. I think if it were a print book I would skip to the end and then finish the rest if the ending did not disappoint too much. It being an audio book that fills my time while walking, I will keep going.

    The reason I mention it is that at it has been a really good lesson in how much I’ve learned about book writing since I started reading this blog, even though I’m not a writer. Long pointless prologue: check! Scenes with no real purpose: check! Slow pacing: check! I am reserving judgment on the multiple POVs because I can see how they might resolve themselves, but since they have so far made only brief appearances
    I fear that the writer wanted to introduce something and couldn’t figure out how to get the protagonist into the scene. The writer needed a conflict box and a hacksaw!

    That being said, I like the premise and there’s a story there–but it’s taking a while to get to the meat of it.

  9. tl;dr

    This week found me digging up favorites from the late ’90s, stuff that I read for a few years after the late wife became the late wife. One of the stories I went looking for in my archives was Strip Chess by Delta. It and two others were missing from the files, so I looked on the interwebs. Mind, it had been published on Usenet, not the internet – you needed a newsreader to read it, and the difference is hard to explain.

    No matter. It popped up, of all places, on Amazon. In fact, I found 21 of her 31 stories there and bought them all. They’re mostly short stories for $0.99. Strip Chess is one of her longer offerings, I think it was $2.99. That made me search for other authors, like Uther Pendragon (and ain’t that a heck of a pen name?). He’s at Amazon, too. There were a few stories by Michael Dalton that I’d never read before. Back when he was MichaelD38@aol, he wrote Orange County Babylon and such things. The majority of those writers are gone, though.

    In all honesty, I subscribed to two Usenet groups – alt.Callahans, where there were a bajillion (read “hundreds”) of fans of Spider Robinson and his Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, and alt.sex.stories.d (d for discussion), where the stories being discussed ranged from out-and-out porn to literature. There were educators like Celeste who rated stories and worked to raise the level. There was a forum for critiquing works in progress. Frankly, Argh Ink makes me homesick for ASSD.

    I miss those days… but not much. I hope the talented writers went on under their real names and published. Dalton did. But Uther and Delta are still using pen names, but they are still being published.

    Anyway, that’s what I’ve been reading, mostly. Plus Tell Me Lies and some SFandF.

  10. I haven’t been reading much and what I have read is stuff I’ve reread many times. My brain is mush and mostly I play Sudoku on my iPad and watch YouTube list channel videos. I’m sure this isn’t making my brain any mushier. I did discover a new channel that has me obsessed. It’s just a parking lot behind a business in Dallas, but it’s all about cars parking there and getting towed away and there is often drama when people come back and find their car gone. There are No Parking signs of all kinds all over the wall, but even when people actually look at them, they just park anyway. The channel’s owner also puts in a music track (drum beats when a tow truck is arriving) and what he calls the “snark track” where he puts in comments, little boxes with specs for the cars. It’s hilarious! I’m not sure why I am so crazy about it, but I’m not the only one: sometimes other fans show up to take pictures of the lot and its signs and to wave to the security camera. It’s great.

  11. I’ve been reading the Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking – thanks for the rec here! I’ve almost made up my mind to send it to my 12 year old great niece for her birthday next month.

    Meanwhile I received my yard for the mosaic crochet CAL that starts tomorrow (I joined thanks to the hint from someone else here. Thank you!) I’m looking forward to starting that. It looks so very simple, and the end result looks so very complicated. It’s right up my alley!

    1. Holy Heck. It took me a minute to translate “yard” to “yarn” and I wondered what kind of insane project you were doing now that required you to cover a yard.

  12. Started re-reading my Phryne Fisher books again… and I had intended to try to finish off my library books now that the libraries have reopened, oh well best of intentions

  13. I still can’t focus on reading. Instead, I’ve been bingeing “Elementary” (on Hulu), which I resisted initially since it seemed like cheating on my love for the BBC Sherlock. But I’m mostly enjoying it, if anyone else is in the same boat of needing story but not being able to focus enough to read.

    1. I *loved* Elementary. JLM was so good, and I got over my initial scepticism about Lucy Liu as Watson (to the point where I now can’t remember why I was sceptical, lol).

      Plus it did not jump the shark in the same way that I felt BBC Sherlock did. I don’t think the final series was the strongest, but it had set a very high standard with what came before!!

      Must go and dig out my Elementary DVDs…

      1. I still haven’t finished it. LOVED the earlier seasons, and the immediate nod to them not dating.

        SPOILER

        I got lost after Sherlock went to London with MI6. Their relationship seemed so tarnished and I was having a hard time coming back. This happens to me all the time. White Collar, Supernatural. F-up the bond and I’m just lost. I keep being told it comes back, but not quick enough to suit me.

  14. Happy Birthday, Jenny.

    I wish I could say I’m reading something new and exciting but I’m just rereading old favorites.

  15. I picked up a copy of The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles after a recommendation and I really enjoyed it. Worthy main characters, a satisfying m/m romance, solid mystery, humor, and an interesting magic system kept me turning the pages. Since I’m hunkered down hiding from PNW fires and hazardous air, I picked up the sequel (A Case of Possession) and am totally there for it. And happy birthday, Jenny!

  16. I’m on holiday, so fine with no Working Wednesday. I’ve been on an Eli Easton binge: good holiday reads. I bought ‘The Redemption of River’ and then reread the previous three in her Sex in Seattle series. Currently reading ‘Tender Mercies’, and will follow with the first Men of Lancaster County story. And then, of course, stand on my head.

  17. I have also been having trouble concentrating on anything new. I’d blame it all on Covid-19, except that I have a history of bringing thing home from the library and then wondering what I had been thinking. The pandemic has merely intensified my bad habits.
    The book I was able to finish this week was Serving Pleasure by Alisha Rai. It is a a steamy romance set in an Indian restaurant run by a trio of sisters. I could really identify with some of the outdated assumptions the sisters had about each other since I think I get caught in that a lot with my own sisters. Most of the story was not set it the restaurant, but it , and the family interactions, were a large part of the female MC. I also appreciated the way she worked toward self acceptance and losing her mother’s internalized voice.
    The male MC was an artist and while the tortured artist trope has been done to death, I found his relationship to his work interesting.

  18. I always love the suggestions here. Especially since I keep getting stuck and unmotivated to read.

    Mostly rereading The School of Essential Ingredients, and The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Baumeister. Food, love, food-love…people-love. It’s full of kind and gentle, furious and lovely stories of tenderness and care, and fear and paying attention. I particularly loved the description of losing one’s memories and the things that trigger them as my dad has alzheimers. It made me relate to him differently. Her writing is a little bit poetry and a little bit magic with a dash of hope and a pinch of healing. It never felt heavy or dispiriting to me.

    Happy Birthday, Jenny! You’re a National Treasure! I love your stories.

  19. I was working too much to miss Working Wednesday. Another vote for Drinking Friday here.

    Happy Birthday!

    As to reading: re-read ‘Fellowship of Fear’ by Aaron Elkins; re-read ‘Reforming Lord Ragsdale’ by Carla Kelly; and finally finished ‘A Short History of the World’ by Christopher Lascelles, which is entirely as advertised. Chief effect: suspicion that anarchy* is the only solution to the complete and utter fuckery perpetrated by every government devised by man.

    *or government devised by women. Let’s get on this.

    1. “*or government devised by women. Let’s get on this. ”

      Ooh, I like this! I am entirely on board with taking over and fixing everything! Someone’s got to.

    2. We currently have a female prime minister, a female leader of the opposition (so not cool), a female, Maori co-leader of the greens, (cool), a female governor general, the finance minister is gay, so we have some diversity. I’d be more smug, but in my opinion the leader of the opposition is just horrible, and if she was on power, I wouldn’t feel smug at all, so I guess it’s not all about gender. (we have an election in 4 weeks, fingers crossed).

  20. I re-read The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. Then I went back to the beginning and read it again, this time with frequent referrals to the List of People, Places, etc. at the back. I even printed the map she has on her website. I may read it again next week. So, so good. Yes, the names can be confusing, but Maia’s innate kindness brought tears to my eyes and his growth over the course of the book brought hope to my heart.

    Then I re-read the Murderbot novellas, in anticipation of -finally! – getting the new novel from my library. And it looks like there is a second novel, Fugitive Telemetry, due out next April. Yay!

  21. I’d recommend Craig Johnson’s Longmire series (much better than the TV series IMHO). Romance is definitely secondary, but a lot of humour and competence, which I find comforting.

    Gives you hope that there is perhaps a bit more common sense out there than might be immediately obvious, given our current circumstances (we’re starting to shut down again here due to inconsiderate people being… um… I’m just going to be blunt and say “stupid”.)

    Happy Birthday Jenny! Thank you for being here and being you.

    1. I’ve been wondering about these books. I watched the first few of the TV shows, and enjoyed them, but I had the feeling I was missing something of his internalness (is that a word?). Maybe the books have what I’m missing.

      1. Books are worth a search-out. Reading in order is a help as characters and story evolve. I read as the books came out, so perhaps I’m not reliable for guidance on continuity, but I still counsel try for order as against higglety-pigglety. I predict you’ll be hooked.

  22. You know how excited you get when you find a new series to love? Well, that’s me thanks to someone here last week who recommended J. Michael Orenduff’s The Pot Thief series. I’m about half way through The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, and I’m so excited. In now have a new series to glom. So, whoever suggested it, thanks again.
    And, Happy Happy Birthday, Jenny!

  23. Happy birthday Jenny. I’ve been rereading a lot of Jenny Crusie this week, Welcome to Temptation, Faking It, Maybe This Time, Bet Me which is probably my favourite.

  24. Maybe I’ve been reading too much but lately I’ll read two or three chapters or twelve and skip to the last chapter to see how it ends. It’s like that with TV, too. We’ll give ten minutes to a movie and either stay with it or move on. And it is not like we don’t have a choice what with a gazillion channels. Amazon better get cracking and get some “A” shows, also. Although last night we were in the mood for a comedy and found An Office Christmas Party with Jason Bateman. A bit raunchy but the high jinks were just what we were expecting. Hollywood and all. I think it was on FXX or FXM.

  25. I read Amanda Bouchet’s Starbreaker; it was fine but it’s the 2nd book in a series so it just drops you at the end waiting for something and that’s annoying.

    Read J.D. Robb’s Golden in Death. Yes, there is a sameness to this series but they are an interesting read. Ten minutes after I’ve returned it to the library, I can’t recall the titles anymore but so what. Good while it lasted. The first books in this series are excellent.

    Currently reading the latest SEP and thanks to ya’ll, my first Ilona Andrews is next on the to-be-read shelf.

  26. Happy Birthday, Jenny!

    And it is appropriate that I comment after Sue. I have enjoyed Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series, so I started her Innkeeper Series a few days ago. I’m on book three and really enjoying them.

    I would never have called myself I myself a serious science fiction and/or fantasy fan (despite gorging on Lord of the Rings and the Foundation Trilogy) but with these, the Murderbot books, the Others series and a few more I think I may have to rethink that!

  27. I don’t have a good book recommendation, but NPR today had a review of a series on HBO Max called The Great Pottery Throw Down. It’s from the BBC in the same vein as The Great British Baking Show (which I really liked.) I checked and Xfinity has HBO Max, so I’m going to give this a watch. A few years ago I took some pottery classes, so I’m looking forward to this series. I’m all for programs that aren’t shouting matches, back stabbing, and name calling drama.

    1. The BBC does tend to frown on that, a contestant once lost Great British Bake Off, despite making the best cake because he was openly smug when a fellow contestant’s entry failed. They do like good sportsmanship.

  28. Happy birthday! Best wishes.

    Last week Moira posted the Duchess War, Courtenay Milan. Only read the last novella in the Brothers Sinister. Bought the set and onto Sebastian and Violet’s story.

    Also listening to Fast Women while I paint the girl’s playhouse. It’s great, again.

  29. Happy, Happy Birthday!
    I’m rereading Arabella, by Georgette Heyer, because I purchased a few new books for the Kindle and not one of them appeals to me.

  30. The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer. This was fun –a spin-off from the Sherlock Holmes stories, only this time the protagonist is Enola Holmes, the little sister of Sherlock and Mycroft. A quick, light read, and very enjoyable.

    A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. This is a YA retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Not bad–good enough that I want to read the next one in the series.

    Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall. I remember someone saying how annoyed they got with the protagonist and his wallowing in self-pity. Me too, but I ended up really enjoying the book.

  31. Happy Birthday, Jenny! I hope all your birthday wishes come true today.

    I like Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You. A friend gave me One Plus One. I’ll read that next.

  32. I read “The Cool Aunt” a short story by Ilona Andrews.

    Otherwise I went down the rabbit hole of Bernadette Banner’s Youtube channel. She makes late 19th century cloths using late 19th century techniques. She has a beautiful antique hand crank Singer sewing machine that I love.

  33. Happy birthday, Jenny! How is this not an official holiday?

    I just finished Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ newest and it was fabulous. I think it may be the best book she’s ever written. I took it with my on my supposed vacation (cut short after 3 days due to an invasion of mice, thank you very much 2020) and then allowed myself to binge the end of it the day after I got home.

    Now I’m reading the newest Donna Andrews, which is set at a Renaissance Faire. Lovely.

    I’m fine with skipping Working Wednesday, since I can’t seem to skip the actual working. I have less than two weeks before I have to turn in the second cozy mystery, and was actually closing in on the second-to-last round of revisions…and then my editor sent me the proof edits for book one today, due September 29th.

    How about drinking Friday?

  34. Yes. Ditto. On the birthday (Happy! Happy!) and the fact that you are a young spring chicken by comparison with me. I hope the world gives you cracked corn in future!

    Meanwhile, I finished all my library books (Contactless pickup of holds! Bliss) and decided to go back to the one book in the Sharing Knife series (L. M. Bujold) that I have not re-read multiple times.

    It’s an interesting series — it apparently started out as a two-book series, but each book was so long that she decided to rework the story somewhat and break it into four, which I think flows better.

    Book one tells about the heroine’s journey, the coming together with the hero, and a return visit to her home, so you get a very strong sense of the family world that raised her. Book two takes both protagonists to his home, which is culturally worlds away from hers, and this is the one I never-re-read, because it was just a little dark and I felt it sad. In Book three, the pair goes on a much longer journey and starts building a new community, and in Book four, the various threads come together and both protagonists get the HEA ending they doubted they’d be able to reach.

    So Book two is the one I avoided, but the book drought made me decide to try it again, and lo and behold I really loved it. The light equalled the dark in it, and I was particularly struck by how skillful and beautiful was Bujold’s ability to describe places in a wonderful way. A revelation, in a series that I love love love.

  35. So – on my rainy holiday I read AJ Finns ‘The Woman in the Window’ for my book club, then Barbara O’Neals ‘The Garden of Happy Endings’

    I took Mary Trumps book with, but why ruin a vacation with ‘The Donald’
    as his first wife called him.

    I hit a Thrift Shop today and got a Katie Fforde book – who I haven’t read in years & ‘Dear Mrs Bird’ by AJ Pearce.

  36. Happy Birthday, Jenny! Yours and the US Constitution’s! Many happy returns of the day!

    I reread, after many years, Mary Stewart’s AIRS ABOVE THE GROUND, with great pleasure. That book mentioned the exciting adventures of the Lippizzaners of the Spanish Riding School at the end of WWII. I remembered that Disney had done a movie — which, of course, I’ve never seen — so went looking on Amazon and while the movie is there, I found a book called THE PERFECT HORSE: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis, which is quite good — well researched and a very interesting read.

    Also beginning on ANCIENT EGYPTIAN PHONOLOGY, by James P. Allen, which, on the first page, informs the reader that Coptic had six major dialects: Akhmimic, Bohairic, Fayyumic, Lycopolitan, Oxyrhynchite, and Sahidic, and how they don’t match the sounds the Greek tourists assigned to them . . . . I can see this one will be a Slow Read. [James P. Allen wrote an updated Egyptian grammar — EGYPTIAN GRAMMAR, Alan Gardiner’s classic, was last updated in 1957 — so I wasn’t expecting a light work.]

    Comfort reads right now: BET ME (surprise) and a Judith McWilliams book, THE SUMMER PROPOSAL. The heroine is a teacher who tests a first-grader by informing him that she needs to know whether he’s an alien (flash card hidden numbers). Light romance with the youngster’s father.

    1. Jenny, in case you missed it, I found DVDs of THE ART OF CRIME at the French Amazon site, and added a note to the tail end of the September 13 blog post entry. Seasons 1 and 2 together, and a two-episode Season 3 (comments, people are Disappointed, they want More), “Phantom of the Opera” and “The Curse of Osiris”!

  37. Happy, happy birthday and thank you for making the world a more fun place through your writing. I’m glad you’re here! 🙂

  38. I’m reading Anne Stuart’s The Absolutely Positively Worst Man in England, Scotland and Wales. I’m just not sure yet why Ireland didn’t make the list.

    1. I tried reading Anne’s book, because I love her, and most of her books are too dark for me. Was so excited she was doing something lighter. But then the hero spent the first chapter thinking frequently about raping and murdering the female protagonist, and I ran away. Much too triggering for me. Sorry, Krissie.

  39. Happy birthday, Jenny! I have actually been re-reading your books this week (about one a day – in alphabetical order, which has a bit of an odd effect), which is a gift to myself.
    Thanks to Deborah Blake for mentioning the new SEP, it had slipped by me.
    I have also been re-reading Loretta Chase – very comforting stuff about redeemable heroes and people who are kind to one another.

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